Monday, August 14, 2006

A Truce with a Huge Hole in It

The UN-sponsored truce between Israel and Hezbollah must be one of the oddest truces in the history of warfare. Not only is Israel's military intensifying its bombing of Beirut and dropping threatening leaflets forty-five minutes before the truce is to come into effect, but it also claims that it is still entitled to use force "to prevent Hezbollah from rearming"—even after the truce comes into effect. This liberty of action is so open-ended as to be insulting to the international community. Already, some Western diplomats have expressed concern at Israel's broad definition and fear that clashes could reignite a full-scale war. And it just might.

Judging from the dreadful efficacy of Israel's targeting system, which has resulted in the targeting of civilian convoys and dozens upon dozens of other nonmilitary items, what this truce that isn't means is that Israel will continue to bomb pretty much everything in Lebanon. So ineffective and unproductive, indeed, has Israel's targeting been that after one month of war and 30,000 Israeli troops on the ground in Lebanon, yesterday Hezbollah was able to fire 250 rockets into northern Israel, the highest quantity in a single day since the commencement of hostilities. This is hardly a Hezbollah ending up with "its tail between its legs," as a clearly myopic Israeli deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday.

Once the truce comes into effect, the only difference will be that approximately 15,000 Lebanese soldiers, along with an eventual multinational deployment, will be standing between Israel and its targets. Judging from history, however, this shouldn't stop the Jewish state from using military force, with terrible consequences for whomever happens to be in the way—UN peacekeepers, Red Cross workers, Canadians, etc.

And consider the words of the Israeli Trade Minister, whose language belies an individual who is better equipped to trade blows than goods: "If a single stone is thrown at Israel from whatever village that happens [sic], it should be turned into a pile of stones." Peace be unto you too, Mr. Minister. A truce in good faith? Hardly so. Just like everything else since the beginning of the war, Israel expects that it can do what it wants while Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinians should give and give and give. Hezbollah is expected to stop all military activity while Israel is to pull out gradually. Both sides have already said that they will respond to any violation with force. Every incident, every suspicion, will be seen as justification by Jerusalem to use force. Hezbollah will be blamed, accused of terrorism (by attacking a foreign military occupying its territory, of all things), and Israel will lash out.

The sad script is already written, and the world knows it. Lebanon is still alone. Sadly for it, the euphemism for continued aggression that is this truce means that more lives will be foreshortened, and more pain will be visited on the lot. All for a senseless war that has not led to the destruction of Hezbollah nor resulted in increased security for Israel or the release of its soldiers taken prisoner. Two things have been accomplished that easily could have been avoided, though: more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has become a regional hero. Meanwhile, Olmert is facing a long fight for political survival. And Hezbollah has demonstrated that it can stand up to one of the world's mightiest militaries and survive the onslaught.

From day one it was evident that a military solution did not exist. Israel jumped into the mire, and truces and resolutions notwithstanding, it still shows that it is willing to go deeper.

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